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WOMAN    S    LIFE                               159
of his girls with bound feet was made to dance with light tiptoe steps on a golden lily six feet high, hung all over with jewels and pearls and golden threads. Thereafter, the fashion was set and imitated by the public, and the bound feet were euphuis-tically called "golden lilies" or "fragrant lilies," which enabled them to pass into poetry. The word "fragrant'* is significant, for it suggests the voluptuous atmosphere of the rich Chinese, whose chambers were filled with rare and fine perfume on which whole volumes have been written.
That women were not only willing but actually glad to be fashionable and d la mode at the expense of bodily comfort is nothing peculiarly Chinese. As late as 1824, English girls were willing to lie on the floor while their mothers by foot and hand were helping to squeeze their bodies inside the whale-bones.1 These whale-bones must have greatly assisted the eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century European women in fainting at the proper moment. Women may be frail in China, but it has never been the fashion to faint. The tiptoe dancing of the Russian ballet is but another example of the beauty of human torture which may be honoured with the name of an art.
The small feet of Chinese women are not only pleasing in men's eyes but in a strange and subtle way they influence the whole carriage and walking gait of the women, throwing the hips backward, somewhat like the modern high-heeled shoes, and effecting an extremely gingerly gait, the body "shimmying" all over and ready to fall at the slightest touch. Looking at a woman with bound feet walking is like looking at a rope-dancer, tantalizing to the highest degree. The bound foot is indeed the highest sophistication of the Chinese sensual imagination.
Then, entirely apart from the feminine gait, men had come to worship and play with and admire and sing about the small feet as a love-fetish. From now on, night shoes were to occupy an important place in all sensual poetry. The cult of the "golden lily" belonged undoubtedly to the realm of sexual
1A fashion journal of the time says' "When lacing the new stays, the young lady should he face downwards on her bedroom floor, and her mother should place her foot in the small of her daughter's back in order to obtain good purchase. There should be then no difficulty in making the stays meet."